Posted by BrianBoru at 9/19/2009 8:27 PM EDT
The Fighting Irish held on to defeat the Michigan State Spartans and the Big Ten officiating crew.
Here are some observations from the game:
1) It appears that quarterback Jimmy Clausen has finally matured as a leader of the offense.
With today's latest 300-yard passing performance, Clausen has set a Notre Dame record: four consecutive games with 300 yards passing.
More impressive, Clausen came through without the aid of a running game — until the second half when running back Armando Allen chipped in with his second consecutive 100-yard game. Head coach Charlie Weis has hitched the entire season, along with his coaching future at Notre Dame, to the right arm of his confident quarterback.
2) Kyle McCarthy is a sensational football player. From his strong safety position, McCarthy has a knack for being at the right place at the right time, seemingly always making the big play when his team most needs it. Not since former linebacker Michael Stonebreaker have the Irish had a player with McCarthy's nose for the ball.
3) The defense remains suspect. It has become evident that the Notre Dame offense is going to have run up huge numbers if the Irish are to win many games this season. Especially troubling is the interior of the defensive line which continues to get gashed. Ethan Johnson should be moved to his more natural defensive end position posthaste.
Defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta continues to deploy blitzing defenders with marginal success. Keep your eyes peeled for improvement from the defense — or it will be a long season.
4) The special teams unit has not played well all season long. If the Irish could ever land a kicker...
Kickoff coverage has been lousy. And that's putting it kindly.
5) Big Ten Officials. Last week, I briefly noted the awful officiating by the Big Ten crew, instead focusing on the larger issue, as I see it, Charlie Weis's poor coaching and the incompetent Notre Dame administration that hired him.
However, after watching today's game, there is absolutely no way one can ignore such abject incompetence. Perhaps the most grievous call of the game came at the expense of Michael Floyd (who broke his collarbone on the play), as the terrific wide receiver had clearly hauled in a touchdown. Not surprisingly, the Big Ten official called the pass incomplete before the replay official, a Big East official, ruled that the call on the field was indeed correct.
Notre Dame must not allow Big Ten officials to work any future games involving Big Ten opponents. It's that simple. It is a conflict of interest and it presents the appearance of impropriety much the same way as professional wrestling, where the outcome is, of course, predetermined.
What I saw was a Notre Dame club, on paper, that was three touchdowns better than Michigan State. Simply put, there weren't more than three or four players from the Spartans outfit that Notre Dame recruited.
Without the assistance from the Big Ten officiating crew and Charlie Weis's head-scratching game plan, this game could have been 42-17 or so...
For now, it is time to enjoy the victory. Notre Dame fans can begin to worry about the loss of Michael Floyd, and its impact on the offense, tomorrow.